On Giving Up Vague Prayers for a Well-Defined Faith

While the house sleeps, I curl up in the stuffed green chair to pray on quiet summer mornings. I find myself searching for words beyond the perfunctory request for God to “bless” my day, my children, my endeavors. “Bless” is shorthand for all of the needs around which I can’t form words. I don’t even know what it means, or what I want him to do for me. My prayers carry a vague notion of wanting–desires unformed and ill-defined.

This summer our family sits in an ellipses, those three small dots that indicates a pause before the end of a sentence. Autumn will enter with a flurry of change for each one of us: two new schools, new family dynamics, a new vocation. We need more than the blessing of God. We need wisdom, comfort, peace, and guidance. We need eyes and ears attuned to the Holy Spirit. We need each other. New friends. Courage. Confidence in Christ. We need a renewed reverence and the ancient words of scripture buried bone-deep from which our muscle memory rises.

We need more than blessings. We need answers.

Shelly Miller’s book Rhythms of Resthas been a faithful companion this summer, and her words have encouraged me to find words of my own as I pray. She writes:

I’m learning to say what I want with greater clarity and definition, even when it feels uncomfortable and presumptuous, because I don’t want a mediocre life as a result of vague prayers and ill-defined faith. When you are tired, depleted, worn out, and weary, imagine Jesus asking, “What do you want me to do for you?”

What do you want me to do for you? Jesus often receives one’s question by responding with another. I feel this question, rather than hear it, as I re-learn how to pray. What is it I want? By sitting with this question all summer, and allowing it to take root in the deepest parts of me, I discover with greater clarity what we want and need as a family. I discover that the things I thought I wanted are not always the things God wants for me. I discover that prayer is less a vague collection of “bless me’s” and more of a conversation.

The “God bless…” prayers feel like throwing a handful of dust in the wind. The wind sweeps them away, and I am left holding nothing but unknowns. As I become more specific in prayer, and I define my needs before God, I find the words to tether me to Him. I know what it is I want–wisdom, a friend for my child, an open door, a willing spirit–and I ask for it. When Jesus asks “What do you want me to do for you?” I sit with open palms and robust prayers as I wait for him to answer.

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Do Shelly’s words resonate with you too? Do you pray in generalities or with a well-defined faith? How have your prayers changed as you’ve grown in faith?

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  • I have been reading Rhythms of Rest as well and what a refreshing read it is. I think most of my book is underlined!

    • Yes, refreshing is exactly how I would describe Shelly’s book! Thanks for stopping by, Meghan:)